The Anatomy of a High Converting Home Page (& How to Design One)

leads Apr 19, 2018

Want to increase conversions on your home page? An optimized homepage design can 5X your email opt-ins. In this guide, we'll share the anatomy of a high converting home page, and how to design one.

On almost every website, the homepage gets more traffic than any other page. Are you converting that traffic effectively?

The average email opt-in rate is 1.95%, and before I implemented my new homepage design, my conversion rate was pretty average (less than 2%).

However, the top 10% of marketers have an average 4.77% opt-in rate. I wanted to push myself to get closer to that rate. So, like a mad scientist, I tested my design to figure out how to improve it.

First, I checked all the usual suspects: I had included an opt-in form above the fold, another in the right-hand sidebar, and still another one in the footer.

Hmmmm. What was I doing wrong? What was I missing?

Well, over the past couple of months I’ve completely redesigned my homepage, and I think I’ve cracked the code. Not only does the design look better, but my conversion rate is now a whopping 17%!

I call this new home page design the “Spotlight Formula”, and I’ll teach it to you right now.

There are 15 persuasion psychology principles and conversion optimization strategies I use in the Spotlight Formula. I will outline 5 of my favorites and show you exactly how you can use them in your own homepage design.

Ready? Let’s go!

The Anatomy of a High Converting Home Page

My Spotlight Formula homepage includes 5 main sections:

  1. Simple menu
  2. Hero banner
  3. Social proof
  4. Cornerstone content
  5. Secondary call-to-action

Let’s go over each of these sections…

Section 1: Simple Menu

Named after psychologist William Edmund Hick, Hicks Law describes the time it takes for a person to make a decision as a result of the choices they have.

Increasing the number of choices will increase the decision time.

We don’t want that for your homepage.

To highlight the point:

Psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted an experiment, The Jam Study, which was conducted at Draeger’s Market in the Bay Area, San Francisco. The study used two different tasting displays. One with 24 different jams, the other with 6.

Results showed that 30% of people checking out the 6-jam display purchased, whereas only 3% of people checking out the 24-jam display purchased.

In short, less is more.

In the Spotlight Formula we use Hick’s Law by minimizing the number of menus in the navigation. So instead of giving our readers unlimited options, focus on the primary actions you want users to take.

For example, on the Backlinko blog, Brian Dean only includes 3 links: About, Contact and a link to a landing page. All other links are placed further down in the footer.

Section 2: Hero Banner

Directly beneath the menu of my new home page design is the “hero” banner and my main call to action.

As soon as your readers arrive at your website, include a primary homepage call to action in a banner section at the top of the page (a hero section) so your reader can sign up to your email list immediately.

Here’s what the Persuasion Nation hero banner looks like:

There are several elements that make up this hero banner…

  • A large, high quality background image of you (if you’re the face of your business)
  • A call-to-action
  • A button

Creating a valuable offer is important, and it’s also import to make your call-to-action stand out.

To do that we use a psychology principle known as visual salience.

Visual salience is is the distinct subjective perceptual quality which makes some items in the world stand out from their neighbors and immediately grab our attention.

Do you see how the red dot in the image below stands out amongst all the other green dots?

And see how the orange button in this image draws your eye?

That’s visual salience.

To use visual salience on your homepage, use contrasting colors.

Red and green, or blue and yellow, for example, are contrasting colors. If your primary color is green, you could use a red button to make it stand out. If your primary color is blue, use yellow.

Section 3: Social Proof

How important is social proof? Allow me to illustrate with another study…

In 1963 Stanley Milgram, a scientist at Yale University, conducted an experiment on the concept of authority to see how far people would go to obey authority. 40 participants were recruited. At the beginning of the experiment, they were introduced to another “participant”, who was really a confederate of Milgram (an actor).

Each participant drew straws to determine their roles: “learner” or “teacher”. In each case, the draw was fixed; the confederate was always the learner, and the real participant was always the teacher.

The learner (the actor) was strapped to an electric chair with electrodes.

The teacher (the participant) was instructed to “test” the learner through a number of multiple choice questions, and to administer an electric shock each time the learner made a mistake. Every time the learner made a mistake, the teacher had to increase the level of shock.

(Remember, participants didn’t know that the learner was really an actor, and the shocks were harmless. They thought this whole thing was real!)

The learner deliberately gave mostly incorrect answers. And If the teacher refused to administer the shock, the experimenter (an actor in a white coat) gave a series of orders to ensure they continued.

The results? They were pretty shocking. 65% of participants actually continued to the highest level of 450 volts, despite thinking that they were seriously hurting someone. The study concluded that ordinary people are extremely likely to follow orders when given to them by someone they view as an authority.

OK, that’s interesting and all, but how does this Milgram Principle apply to web design?

If you can get an expert or influencer (i.e. an authority figure) to endorse your work, and advertise that fact on your homepage, you will see an increase in conversions.

For example, if you have been featured by leading publications in your niche, include them in a section directly beneath your hero layout.

Alternatively, use a quote or testimonial from a customer, or someone recognized in your industry.

Don’t have testimonials or featured logos yet? Use a famous quote from one of your favorite bloggers or influencers that backs up any claims you are making on your homepage.

Section 4: Cornerstone Content

The fourth section uses your cornerstone content: that is, articles on your site your most proud of and you’d like to rank in Google for.

Think of those top 4-5 pages of your site that most reflect your blog and value proposition.

Cornerstone content plays an important role in your SEO strategy, and it’s hard to rank for popular search terms. Linking to your cornerstone content on your homepage can help you tackle those super-competitive terms by showing Google which articles on your site are the most important.

DESIGN TIP: When adding articles to your home page, embrace white-space. White-space is defined as any unused space around an object; it helps your content “breathe” and makes your homepage look more polished and professional.

Section 5: Secondary Call-to-Action

Ever heard of the AIDA Model? The AIDA Model is one of the most commonly known marketing models. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

AIDA helps to explain how an advertisement or marketing communications message engages consumers.

To some extent the Spotlight Formula follows the AIDA Model…

  1. Attention = Hero Layout
  2. Interest = Social Proof
  3. Desire = Cornerstone Content
  4. Action = Secondary Call-to-Action

Now, most people use the footer to drop any secondary links, or links they want to hide, such as their privacy policy and terms and conditions…

But instead, you can use the footer to convert your readers into subscribers by adding an additional call-to-action.

Why?

Well, if your readers have made it all the way down to your footer, they clearly love your work. So why not ask them to sign up by including a call-to-action in your footer?

How to Design a Home Page that Converts

OK, so now you know what sections to include in your homepage. But how do you actually design this, especially if you’re not a designer or a developer, and you don’t want to get your hands dirty with code?

Well, if you’re a WordPress user, I’m just going to come right out and say it: there’s a huge problem with most (standard) themes…

You see, the biggest problem with WordPress themes is that if you want to tweak the design of your homepage beyond the limitations of the existing layout, you will need to edit your theme’s PHP, HTML and CSS files. Specifically, you will need to “register” several widget areas and create custom CSS, which means you need to use an FTP client to access the code…

Bla, bla, bla… Exhausting, isn’t it?

Let’s fix that.

Here are 6 options to gain complete control over editing your theme, without going anywhere near a line of code…

1. Use a WordPress Home Page Builder

WordPress page builders aren’t new but have increased in popularity in recent years. Among the most popular are Beaver BuilderDiviElementor and Make.

All three are drag-and-drop page builders, allowing you complete freedom to tweak your home page design without code.

(Note: Divi, Beaver Builder and Make are both a theme and plugin, whilst Elementor is a plugin only so you must use it together with a theme.)

I personally use and recommend Beaver Builder on a StudioPress theme.

Beaver Builder has a short learning curve, and has a growing number of third party apps to extend it’s functionality further.

Persuasion Nation runs on Make, which also comes with Beaver Builder built in.

And want to know the best part? You can get started with Make, Beaver Builder and Elementor for free.

2. Use a Landing Page Builder

Did you know you can build your homepage with a separate landing page builder, even if your blog is built on WordPress?

LeadpagesThrive ThemesInstapage and ClickFunnels let you publish any landing page as a homepage, right within your WordPress dashboard. No need to worry about customizing code, adding widgets or writing CSS. (Not sure which landing page builder to use? Check out this case study that compares Clickfunnels and Leadpages.)

HOMEPAGE DESIGN EXAMPLES: VideoFruitScrew The Nine to Five and Jeff Goins all have homepages built with their preferred landing page builder.

3. Use an Opt-in Focused WordPress Theme

If the thought of designing your own homepage still fills you with a sense of dread and overwhelm, simply pick an theme that is opt-in focused right out of the box.

Three themes I would recommend are Authority Pro by StudioPressGrowtheme, and Conversion Cats by David Siteman Garland.

All three of these themes have excellent support, are robust, and built with conversions in mind.

You will still need to follow the theme setup instructions to get your theme looking like their demos, but if you follow the instructions, you will be able to launch your new blog or switch themes relatively quickly.

4. Use a Welcome Gate

A welcome gate (or welcome mat) is a full screen opt-in form that takes over the browser’s screen when a new visitor lands on your home page.

You can create a welcome mat with OptinMonster, Sumo, Hello Bar and LeadPages.

But each have their own set of unique features.

For example, Leadpages welcome gates are created as a separate page and published through your WordPress dashboard as a welcome gate. Users can either opt-in or close the page. You can build any kind of page with a Leadpages welcome gate, however, you can only include a call-to-action and opt-in form using the other welcome mats mentioned.

Sumo welcome mats slide down the page once a visitor lands on your website. Users can either subscribe or close the welcome mat, in which case it will slide back up the page.

OptinMonster does so much more than just welcome gates… it is a whole suite of powerful email list building tools. For example, it also does exit-intent popups: so when a user moves their cursor towards the edges of their browser, indicating that they are about to leave your site, then a popup shows up right at that moment. (Adding an exit-intent popup to your home page can increase your conversions by as much as 600%!)

5. Use Plugins

If you’re not up for a complete redesign yet, you can still optimize your existing homepage by using a few key plugins to help you achieve a similar layout. (Although may have to compromise on design.)

You can use the Plugmatter Optin Feature Box or Popupally plugins to create your hero layout and main call-to-action.

To add an opt-in form in your footer, use Popupally Pro, OptinMonster, or a form from your email service provider. Or, if you’re using a StudioPress theme, the Enews Extended Widget.

6. Don’t Use WordPress

I’ve just introduced you to 5 of the easiest ways I know to create a custom homepage in WordPress. Alternatively, you could ditch WordPress altogether and go for a dedicated website builder.

Persuasion Nation’s sister site, Persuasion Education, runs on Kajabi, which is both a website builder and a learning management system (for creating online courses).

Kajabi makes it super easy to build beautiful homepage designs in minutes, as well as being a complete suite of marketing tools to grow your online business.

Conclusion

Creating a stunning homepage that will also build your email list faster isn’t just about adding as many opt-in forms to your site as possible, or choosing the best pop-up software.

Please do not obsess over what software to use until you get crystal clear on why someone should sign up.

I really can’t stress that enough.

Spend most of your time working on your offer. Then, choose one of the methods above to build your homepage. With one of these tools, it shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours to put together.

Pretty soon, you’ll be converting tons of homepage visitors into email subscribers!


Steven Mayall is a blogger, marketer, partner and father. His passion is helping entrepreneurs build their digital platforms and systems by combining marketing expertise with, conversion principles and tech. know how. Get my FREE guide and discover exactly how to increase conversions 5x.

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